Pallas in the Gironde

5th April 1806 - 6th April 1806
Fought at : Gironde - Bay of Biscay
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action of 1806-03-13 13.3.1806
Next action : Tremendous vs Canonniere 21.4.1806


Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Garonne (20)  
La Gloire (20)  
La Malicieuse (16)  
La Tapageuse (14)  

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Pallas (32) Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860)

Notes on Action


On the night of April 5th, the boats of the Pallas, 32, Captain Lord Cochrane, were despatched, with about 160 men under the orders of Lieutenant John Haswell, to cut out the French corvette Tapageuse, 14, which was lying in the Gironde. The Tapageuse was twenty miles up the river and close to two powerful batteries; but, the weather being thick, the British boats surprised their enemy and carried her without the loss of a man killed, and with only three wounded. At daybreak her captors hoisted her sails to take her out, whereupon another French vessel attacked her, but was quickly driven off. The guns of the French battery de Graves, did not fire a shot, and the Tapageuse made good her retreat.

In the meanwhile, however, the Pallas, with a mere handful of men, had been in the gravest danger. Three French sail had appeared in the offing steering for the Gironde, and Cochrane had only 40 men to work and fight his ship. He was not the officer to abandon the cutting-out party, and in such straits he showed a bold front, and had recourse to a most ingenious stratagem. The sails were first furled with rope yarns, and then, on a signal, the yarns were cut away by a few hands, so that all the sails were instantly let drop together, as though they had been handled by a numerous and well-trained crew. The Pallas gave chase to the leading enemy, fired a few shot at her, and drove her ashore. She was the Garonne, 20. A second French vessel, the Malicieuse, 16, suffered the same fate. The third, the Gloire, 20, is said by Cochrane to have been also run on shore. After this extraordinary performance, the British Captain coolly rejoined his prize, the Tapageuse. It is satisfactory to be able to note that Lieutenant Haswell was promoted on August 15th following; but Cochrane, being unpopular with the Admiralty, never received the thanks which he deserved. Numerous instances of this kind of neglect occur in the period 1803-1815, and, no doubt, contributed, in their way, to lower the efficiency of the Navy.

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